Students meet, greet and eat at Capitol

Gathering for Lobby Day, students discussed rising tuition and book costs.

by Alex Amend

The annual University Lobby Day at the state Capitol provided a forum for praise and criticism amidst the dreary weather Wednesday.

Students, faculty members, staff and alumni from all five campuses – along with two very attentive mascots – descended on the Capitol’s rotunda to speak about their educational experience and to appeal directly, in private, to representatives and senators about the importance of the University to their lives and the state.

“The U of M is vital to Minnesota,” said Mark Lewandowski of the MSA, speaking with representatives of the five campuses. “Not only does the ‘U’ provide a world-class education but also performs research that affects millions of people.”

Many commended the recent legislative support for a proposed biomedical research facility as attendees encouraged the Legislature to continue to support the University’s mission in becoming one of the top three research institutions.

But far past the bright memories of scholastic success and future opportunity hovered the question of increased tuition and rising debt for outgoing students.

“We’re talking about the decreasing rate of student tuition increases,” said Matt Schmit, GAPSA’s vice president of public affairs. “The tuition burden is prohibitive for many students, just by virtue of sticker shock – we are here today to establish a presence.”

Another priority espoused by student groups is controlling the cost of textbooks.

“The cost of textbooks is another thing, like tuition, that has been increasing exponentially rather than gradually with inflation, and it’s driving students away from the University,” student body President Max Page said.

After the rally at the rotunda, attendees had a bite to eat and a chance to meet with representatives and senators from their respective districts.

David Liebow, a psychology and political science junior, met with his representative Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, who also happens to be his mother.

“We think it’s fantastic that the state has taken so much interest in the expansion at the U of M-Rochester, but it’s important to make sure the rest of the education system is funded,” he said.

Dylan Kelly, a political science first-year student, met with Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul, and voiced his discontent at the cost of tuition.

“I feel like we are at the bottom of the food chain right now – the state decides how much the ‘U’ gets and the ‘U’ decides what we get,” he said.

In response, Hausman expressed her own distaste with the price of tuition and pointed to conflicting interests within the administration, pulling out a folded sports page from the Star Tribune about new basketball coach Tubby Smith’s record-setting contract.

Kelly said that acting as a mouthpiece for the administration is something he wanted to avoid at Lobby Day.

“I care about the University as much as anyone, but I also want to get out of school and afford to live.”